By Jeffrey Donovan
PRAGUE, November 23, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- FIFA, world soccer's governing body, has suspended Iran from all international competition. In an interview with RFE/RL, FIFA spokesman Pekka Odriozola said the decision was made on November 22 and that it was due to Iranian government interference in soccer matters.
"The FIFA Emergency Committee took this decision after determining that the Iran Football Federation was not adhering to the principles of the FIFA statutes regarding the independence of member associations, the independence of the decision-making process of the football governing body in each country, and the way in which changes in the leadership of associations are brought about," Odriozola said.
Earlier this year, Mohammad Dadgan, the Iranian federation's elected president, and his board were forced out of office by Iranian authorities.
Odriozola said the Iranian federation then failed to meet a FIFA deadline of November 15 to reinstate Dadgan and his board and to comply with FIFA rules.
"In this respect, FIFA and the AFC [Asian Football Confederation] adopted the clear position that Dr. Dadgan and the members of his board remained the recognized and legitimate president and leadership of the Iran football federation," Odriozola said. "This deadline was not met by the Iran Football Federation."
Iran took part in the 2006 World Cup in Germany and last week beat South Korea 2-0 to qualify for next year's Asian Cup.
To play in that cup and other events, FIFA said in a statement that the Iranian federation must meet a "road map" of conditions, including drafting new statutes based on FIFA rules and holding elections to appoint a new president and board under the supervision of FIFA and the AFC.
The Zurich-based FIFA also called on the Iranian federation to set up a "normalization committee." Its members would be appointed by FIFA and the AFC to oversee Iran's full compliance and implementation of the road map.
Iran is the second country to face recent FIFA sanctions. Last month, Kenya was also suspended for failing to respect signed agreements and for recurrent problems in its federation.
Copyright (c) 2006 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org
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